At first glance, it would be easy to conclude that 800Razors.com is just a Dollar Shave Club copycat in the nearly $2 billion razor cartridge category.
But that would be wrong.
Let’s quickly set the stage for this discussion.
Category leader Gillette built a strong business via a decades-long, continuing series of product innovations that support a premium-price strategy. They kept some of the older models as part of a tiered product/pricing assortment for consumers.
An opening existed for a competitor to deliver a high-quality blade at much lower cost, and it came via a new business model. Dollar Shave Club (DSC) emerged as a disruptive player in 2011/2012, getting wide notice with a wacky video featuring its founder. Its online, recurring monthly sales model (“club”) took dead aim at the category giants selling through traditional retail channels.
Then, in 2013, 800Razors.com joined the fray, building off the DSC approach while incorporating significant go-to-market differences:
- Buy Only When You Want. 800Razors allows single purchase. Dollar Shave Club does not. It’s an important difference because it removes a potential obstacle to trial. For example, I’ve thought about trying DSC but didn’t want to sign-up for regular monthly deliveries.
- American Supplier. 800Razors is behind-the-scenes partnering with the maker of Schick blades to source its products. Smart decision. It’s probably a cost-effective way to enter the market. And, it supports the “Made in America” consumer promise. In their own video, 800Razors claims that DSC “imports crappy razors from Asia.”
- Product Innovation Source. The Schick deal gives 800Razors easy access to new product innovation. Depending on the terms of their deal, they can sell the latest razor blade technology and stay relevant in the market. In contrast, DSC would have to copy the next innovation and get it manufactured by its supplier. Knock-offs in all industries happen fast today, but it’s still an extra step and takes time.
- Free Sample. 800Razors offers free trial. Well, sort of. You can get a sample if you sign up for auto refills, but then you’ll have to cancel the subscription if you prefer not to continue.
- Naming the Market Leader to be Attacked. 800Razors clearly names and targets the category leader’s products (Gillette). That’s unusual, but very direct and clear for shoppers to understand.
- Women Shave Too. 800Razors has product for women; DSC does not.
It will be interesting to see what happens going forward with these two online players. They seem to be moving in different directions.
Dollar Shave Club wants to be more than razor cartridges. They’ve expanded their product line-up with Dr. Carver’s Shave Butter and butt wipes called One Wipe Charlies. Obviously, the shaving lube is a direct fit, but product range additions such as the wipes will butt heads with the company name. Are they a razor company or a men’s grooming company? Too bad the DSC team didn’t plan for that possibility when they named the company.
As for 800Razors.com, can they really pull it off and become a viable business? First year sales were $1 million and their 2023 target is $180 million. They’d have to out-execute Dollar Shave Club and eat into Gillette’s 81% share to get there.
Despite the obvious difficulty with that goal, I had a different concern: Forget 2023 forecasting! The business team needs to focus all their efforts to build the brand and generate revenue now.
It reminds me of a true long-term planning story (3-5 years) at a major consumer products company, the gist of which is:
Marketing Director to nervous brand team responsible for preparing and defending the forecast: “It’s okay. None of us will be working on this business then, so don’t worry if the numbers are achievable. Just get it done and move on.”
800Razors.com is trying to beat Dollar Shave Club and both are trying to beat Gillette with a low-price, online sales model. What does it mean and what are the go-to-market differences?
Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who drives success in B2B/B2C organizations.